May 19, 2024

Most state parks are now open – with restrictions

Copper Falls Fall Festival, view of Copper Falls

Road trippers, all state parks – except for six for some reason – are available again! However, with COVID-19 still a concern, restrictions will be in place.

The Wisconsin DNR, at the direction of Governor Evers, reopened 34 of the 40 state parks and forests that were closed at the beginning of April. “Outdoor recreation is important for both physical and mental health, and I know how important it is to Wisconsinites to get outside and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources and spring weather,” said Gov. Evers in a statement. And we’re hoping the “spring weather” part holds true, you never know sometimes.

At any rate, the governor’s office sent out these changes:


An annual park sticker and/or trail pass is required to visit state parks and trails.
Annual stickers are available for purchase with credit card by phone 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. seven days a week by calling toll free: 1-888-305-0398. Annual passes are NOT available for purchase at individual parks. Visitors must have an annual admission sticker adhered to their vehicle or proof of purchase for entry. Once proof of purchase is shown, visitors must place proof of purchase on the dash of the windshield while parked within the boundary of the property. The 2020 annual vehicle admission sticker is valid through Dec. 31, 2020.


State parks and forests are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, a change from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Properties will be closed to the public every Wednesday for maintenance and upkeep.
Northern Forests, Flowages, Lower Wisconsin Riverway, and Wild Rivers will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. Specific properties listed below.

  • Black River State Forest
  • Brule River State Forest
  • Chippewa Flowage
  • Flambeau River State Forest
  • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
  • Governor Knowles State Forest
  • Lower Wisconsin State Riverway
  • Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest
  • Pike Wild River
  • Pine-Popple Wild River
  • Turtle Flambeau Flowage
  • Willow Flowage

Hunting and fishing is allowed on all open properties in accordance with legal season structure and hours. Access to some areas may be limited to walk-in or water access only.
The following properties will remain closed for the health and safety of the public, staff, and property integrity:

  • Gibraltar Rock state natural area
  • Pewit’s Nest state natural area
  • Parfrey’s Glen state natural area
  • Dells of The Wisconsin River state natural area


DNR boat launches are open at open state properties.
All anglers and recreational boaters should practice social distancing and keep travel to a minimum.
If individuals can lawfully access Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes, they are free to navigate upon them while engaging in outdoor recreation.


All linear/rail trails are open to the public, which includes ATV trails.
The Ice Age Trail remains open.
An annual state trail pass is required for anyone age 16 or older biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding or in-line skating on certain trails. A state trail pass is NOT required for walking or hiking. The annual trail passes are valid through Dec. 31 of the year they are issued.


Restrooms at all state properties are still closed. So go, before you go.
All other facilities will remain closed, including towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations and concession buildings.
Attractions where social distancing cannot be achieved will be closed as needed at various properties.


At times, many properties will likely reach their pre-determined safety capacity. When this happens, visitors may be denied entry to the park until existing visitors leave. Visitors are encouraged to explore other DNR recreation areas or visit during non-peak hours before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
State Parks likely to temporarily prohibit additional visitors include:

  • Copper Falls
  • Devil’s Lake
  • Governor Dodge
  • Governor Nelson
  • Harrington Beach
  • Hartman Creek
  • High Cliff
  • Interstate
  • Kinnickinnic
  • Kettle Moraine Southern Unit
  • Lapham Peak
  • Perrot, Rib Mountain
  • Roche-a-Cri
  • Whitefish Dunes
  • Willow River


Camping, group camps and shelters will remain closed until May 26. Refunds will be issued to all customers. Limited numbers of remote, backpack and boat-in campsites are available on a first-come first-serve basis. A list of some of the properties offering this type of camping include:

  • Brule River State Forest
  • Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area
  • Dunnville Wildlife Area
  • Flambeau River State Forest
  • Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest
  • Governor Knowles State Forest
  • Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area
  • Tiffany Wildlife Area
  • Van Loon State Wildlife Are
  • Willow Flowage

Volunteer activities remain suspended at DNR properties.
All events and special event permits are canceled until May 26.
Of course, we should continue to work on preventing the spread of COVID-19 including avoiding large social gatherings, frequent handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching your face – although really, the handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes part should happen whether there’s a pandemic or not.

We’ll work to keep you up-to-date on the latest in what so far is an unusual year for roadtripping – but it could lead to some new and cool experiences, too!

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